Sending heart emoji to women on Whatsapp may lead you to jail, along with heavy fines, in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Gulf states have recently enacted stringent legal measures targeting certain aspects of online communication, particularly affecting females, in an effort to curb perceived moral degradation. According to a report by Gulf News, individuals now face imprisonment of up to two years for engaging in specific digital interactions that are deemed as incitement to debauchery.
A surprising and noteworthy inclusion in these regulations is the act of sending heart emojis to members of the opposite sex. This seemingly harmless expression has now been criminalized, with authorities justifying this move as necessary to protect societal values and norms.
Kuwaiti lawyer Haya Al Shalahi has emphasized the gravity of the new laws, explaining that those found guilty of this offense could be sentenced to imprisonment for up to two years, along with fines reaching up to 2,000 Kuwaiti dinars. The penalties are even more severe in Saudi Arabia, where individuals convicted of sending heart emojis and engaging in other forms of digital communication deemed inappropriate could face jail terms ranging from two to five years, coupled with fines of 100,000 Saudi Riyals.
Al Moataz Kutbi, a Saudi cybercrime expert and member of Saudi’s Anti-Fraud Association, shed light on the rationale behind the legislation. He warned that employing specific images and expressions during online conversations could potentially lead to charges of harassment if the aggrieved party decides to file a lawsuit. This underscores the intention of creating a more secure online space and discouraging any form of online misconduct.
The new regulations also target repeat offenders with escalating penalties. Those persistently committing the offense may incur fines exceeding 300,000 Saudi Riyals and could face up to five years in prison.
The introduction of these laws has sparked discussions about the delicate balance between preserving cultural values and embracing the digital age’s evolving norms. As Gulf states grapple with the complexities of modern communication, these legal changes seek to enforce a code of conduct that aligns with established societal standards, while also addressing the potential negative repercussions of unchecked online interactions.
The broader implication of these laws extends to redefining the boundaries of online freedom of expression and personal autonomy, raising important questions about the role of legislation in regulating digital behavior.